(This is adapted from a talk I gave to dads involved in the Conquest Club in Milton, Ontario this weekend on their role in Conquest.)
Before we get into nuts and bolts about what a parent’s role is, we need to answer: What does it mean to be a mom or dad? I think there’s 3 aspects that are important.
Parents form their image in their children. We speak of God the Father as more a father then my dad or yours because the Son is exactly like the Father in all save being a Father; humans, however, pass on a partial image to children. Our image is deficient in 2 ways: we only pass on half of us, not an ideal man; and we have original sin. Because of these deficiencies we need other men to help us. For example, I take after my mom’s side more than my dad’s and honestly my model of how to be a man is maternal grandfather. My dad is not a bad man but we are very different in talents and preferences while I in general match my grandfather.
Yet a dad can be a dad by adoption. This brings out the 2nd meaning of being a parent: educating your children. Parents are always the primary educators of their children. But usually parents can’t do it all on their own – even thos3e who homeschool rely on the writers of the textbooks as educators of their children. The most important thing to educate kids in is not the ABCs or quantum mechanics; but to teach them virtue so they can be good people not just smart people, and to teach them how to have a relationship with Jesus so they can be saints and get to heaven.
Finally, being a mom or dad means self-giving love to your kids. Love means seeking someone else’s good beyond your own. We find happiness and meaning when we give ourselves. Just imagine 2 men on their deathbed: one surrounded by his family and the other surrounded by people hoping he dies soon so they can get his money. The 2nd may have been a great businessman in life but he now realizes how much unhappiness that brought. We all realize how much of a better life the first one lived. He lived it because he gave himself to others.
As far as roles, I think we can examine 3 levels or moments.
All parents need to collaborate. If you drop your kids off so they are babysat 2 hours at youth group, your kids will probably not get much out of it. You need to show interest in your children and interest in what they’re learning from youth group. (You can’t be like the average dad who spends 7 minutes a day with his kids.) This means bringing up what was discussed during youth ministry at other times, or making time for them to attend special events like service projects or retreats. How parents do this, varies teen to teen based on age and personality. This is nothing special.
Then any youth group need occasional volunteers who do things like car pool, give a talk one night, prepare and clean up snack, etc. Why should you do that? The other teens need your example. You need to show selflessness (self-giving love) to your own child. Most of all by giving yourself to all the teens there, you’ll get the true joy and meaning that comes from service.
For the same motivations some parents need to be there every week or almost every week. The youth minister is limited to a small group if others aren’t there to help out each week. (This is also a warning to youth minsters who try and be the only one there each week: it’s almost impossible to run a moderate to large group this way.) This demonstrates a fuller self-giving love to your kids and the other kids. Today kids very often put their parents as their role model so take advantage.
To conclude, remember that the youth group should make you a better parent. It gives your children the virtues you want them to have and gives you a chance to discuss these with your kids. It presents many other parents and young adults as role models. It lets you model self-giving love to them – nothing else is more important as a parent. And, most of all, it brings them closer to Jesus which is their ultimate goal in life.